A few days ago, my pastor (Rev. David Sarafolean, Christ Covenant Church in
Midland, Mich.) based a Sunday sermon on Philippians 4:6: Be anxious for
nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let
your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all
comprehension, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.
It was a moving, inspirational message for any time of the
year, but especially for the holiday season. It put me in a more grateful frame
of mind. I’ve given considerable thought since Sunday to the endless roster of
things I’m thankful for. Some are lofty or personal, others more mundane and
universal. Contemplating reasons to give thanks is itself a healthy, spiritual,
character-building exercise that cultivates both humility and inner peace. I
Applying the virtue of gratitude to the professional world
in which I labor, I find myself immensely thankful for the rise of organizations
like ours. Twenty-five years ago, there were none outside of Washington, D.C.
Inspired in part by the Heritage Foundation and the Cato Institute,
state-focused groups appeared on the scene in the mid 1980s. By the time the
Mackinac Center for Public Policy was formed in 1987, fewer than a half dozen
similar groups were up and running. Today, more than 40 states have at least one
such organization, putting ideas of liberty and limited government on the policy
table that was once monopolized by the tax-and-tax, spend-and-spend crowd. Take
a look at the directory map at
www.spn.org and you’ll see what I mean. (For a directory of the many
free-market groups overseas, see
I am thankful for these organizations for multiple reasons.
Each one is its own entity, not a franchise or an offshoot of another, thoroughly rooted in the culture of its respective
state. Many are still headed by the entrepreneurs who started them and who, in
many cases, work long hours at deep, missionary discounts. They often encounter
setbacks and disappointments — such as when a bad idea becomes law or when a
prospective contributor doesn’t possess the vision to see the value of what they
do — but they are a persevering lot.
From their offices spring innovative solutions to the real
problems faced by real people. They are on the front lines of battles for school
choice, limited taxation, spending discipline, freedom from compulsory unionism,
health-care and tort reform, and market-based alternatives within every
important area of public policy. Without them, I would fear for the future of
both our liberties and our pocketbooks.
Few, if any, public school history books will tell you
this, but the first Thanksgiving (www.mackinac.org/3857)
took place after several years of bad harvests resulting from bad ideas. The
Pilgrims had organized themselves communist-style. Property was held in common
and what the people produced was deposited in a common storehouse and
distributed equally. Rewards were not tied to efforts. The people faced
starvation as a result. Ultimately, it wasn’t a poverty conference or even a
federal department that fixed the problem. It was private property, free
enterprise and individual initiative. It was perhaps Americans’ first lesson in
Economics 101, one that we should never forget. Teaching that lesson, and how
its principles relate to current issues, is what think tanks like the Mackinac
Center in Michigan and its counterparts in other states are all about.
Thank you, fellow free-market think tankers, for reminding
our citizenry of what it means to live, work and govern ourselves in a free
Lawrence W. Reed is president of the Mackinac
Center for Public Policy, a research and educational institute headquartered in
Midland, Mich. Permission to reprint in whole or in part is hereby granted,
provided that the author and the Center are properly cited.